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Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead;
Ham. [advancing] What is he, whose grief
[Leaps into the Grave. Laer.
The devil take thy soul!
[Grappling with him.
King. Pluck them asunder.
Good my lord, be quiet.
this theme, Until my eyelids will no longer wag.
Queen. O my son! what theme?
Ham. I lov'd Ophelia; forty thousand brothers
King. O, he is mad, Laertes.
Ham. 'Zounds, show me what thou 'lt do:
self? Woul't drink up Esil? eat a crocodile?3
2 All. &c.] This is restored from the quartos. Steevens. 3 Woult drink up Esil ? eat a crocodile?] This word has through all the editions been distinguished by Italick characters, as if it were the proper name of scme river; and so, I dare say, all the editors have from time to time understood it to be. But then this must be some river in Denmark; and there is none there so called ; nor is there any near it in name, that I know of but Yssel, from which the province of Overyssel derives its title in the German Flanders. Besides, Hamlet is not proposing any impos. sibilities to Laertes, as the drinking up a river would be: but
I'll do 't:--Dost thou come here to whine? I'll do'li
he rather seems to mean,-Wilt thou resolve to do things the most shocking and distasteful to human nature; and, behold, I am as resolute. I am persuaded the poet wrote:
Wilt drink up Eisel? eat a crocodile ? i. e. Wilt thou swallow down large draughts of vinegar? The proposition, indeed, is not very grand: but the doing it might be as distasteful and unsavoury as eating the flesh of a crocodile. And now there is neither an impossibility, nor an anticlimax: and the lowness of the idea is in some measure removed by the uncommon term. Theobald. Sir T. Hanmer has,
Wilt drink up Nile? or eat a crocodile ? Hamlet certainly meant (for he says he will rant) to dare Laertes to attempt any thing, however difficult or unnatural; and might safely promise to follow the example his antagonist was to set, in draining the channel of a river, or trying his teeth on an animal whose scales are supposed to be impenetrable. Had Shakspeare meant to make Hamlet say—Wilt thou drink vinegar? he probably would not have used the term drink up; which means, totally to exhaust ; neither is that challenge very magnificent, which only provokes an adversary to hazard a fit of the heart-burn or the colick.
The commentator's Yssell would serve Hamlet's turn or mine. This river is twice mentioned by Stowe, p. 735: “ It standeth a good distance from the river Issell, but hath a sconce on Issell of incredible strength.” Again, by Drayton, in the 24th Song of his Polyolbion :
“ The one o'er Isell's banks the ancient Saxons taught;
“ At Over-Isell rests, the other did apply:_." And in King Richard II, a thought, in part the same, occurs, Act II, sc, ii :
the task he undertakes “ Is numb’ring sands, and drinking oceans dry.”. But in an old Latin account of Denmark and the neighbouring provinces, I find the names of several rivers little differing from Esil, or Eisell, in spelling or pronunciation. Such are the Essa, the Desil, and some others. The word, like many more, may in• deed be irrecoverably corrupted; but, I must add, that few authors later than Chaucer or Skelton made use of eysel for vinegar: nor has Shakspeare employed it in any other of his plays. The poet might have written the Weisel, a considerable river which falls into the Baltick ocean, and could not be unknown to any prince of Denmark. Steevens.
Woult is a contraction of wouldest, (wouldest thou) and perhaps ought rather to be written woul'st. The quarto, 1604, has esil. In the folio the word is spelt esile. Eisil or eisel is vinegar. The word is used by Chaucer, and Skelton, and Sir Thomas More, Works, p. 21, edit. 1557 :
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
with sowre pocion
“ How Christ for thee tasted eisil anci gall." The word is also found in Minsheu's Dictionary, 1617, and in Cole's Latin Dictionary, 1679.
Our poet, as Dr. Farmer has observed, has again employed the same word in his 111th Sonnet:
like a willing patient I will drink
“ Nor double penance, to correct correction.” Mr. Steevens supposes, that a river was meant either the Yssell, or Oesil, or Weisel, a considerable river which falls into the Baltick ocean. The words, drink up, he considers as favourable to his notion. “ Had Shakspeare (he observes) meant to make Hamlet say, Wilt thou drink vinegar ? he probably would not have used the term drink up, which means, totally to exhaust. In King Richard II, Act II, sc. ii, (he adds) a thought in part the same Occul's :
the task he undertakes, “ Is numb’ring sands, and drinking oceans dry.” But I must remark, in that passage evidently impossibilities are pointed out. Hamlet is only talking of difficult or painful exertions. Every man can weep, fight, fast, tear himself, drink a potion of vinegar, and eat a piece of a dissected crocodile, however disagreeable ; for I have no doubt that the poet uses the words eat a crocodile, for eat of a crocodile. We yet use the same phraseology in familiar language.
On the phrase drink up no stress can be laid, for our poet has employed the same expression in his 114th Sonnet, without any idea of entirely exhausting, and merely as synonymous to drink :
“ Or whether doth my mind, being crown'd with you,
“ Drink up the monarch's plague, this flattery?" Again, in the same Sonnet :
'tis flattery in my seeing, “ And my great mind most kingly drinks it up." Again, in Timon of Athens :
“ And how his silence drinks up his applause.” In Shakspeare's time, as at present, to drink up, often meant no more than simply to drink. So, in Florio's Italian Dictionary, 1598: “ Sorbire, to sip or sup up any drink.” In like manner we sometimes say, “ when you have swallowed down this potion,” though we mean no more than-when you have swallowed this potion. Malone.
Mr. Malone’s strictures are undoubtedly acute, and though not, in my own opinion, decisive, may still be just. Yet, as I cannot reconcile myself to the idea of a prince's challenging a nobleman to drink what Mrs. Quickly has called “a mess of vinegar," I have neither changed our former text, nor withdrawn my ori
Be buried quick with her, and so will I:
This is mere madness 4
Hear you, sir;
ginal remarks on it, notwithstanding they are almost recapitulated in those of my opponent.—On the score of such redundancy, however, I both need and solicit the indulgence of the reader.
Steevens. * This is mere madness: ] This speech in the first folio is given to the King. Malone.
5 When that her golden couplets are disclos'd,] To disclose was anciently used for to hatch. So, in The Booke of Huntynge, Hawkyng, Fyshing, &c. bl. l. no date: “First they ben eges; and after they ben disclosed, haukes; and commonly goshaukes ben disclosed as sone as the choughes.” To exclude is the technical term at present. During three days after the pigeon has hatched her couplets, (for she lays no more than two eggs) she never quits her nest, except for a few moments in quest of a little food for herself; as all her young require in that early state, is to be kept warm, an office which she never entrusts to the male. Steevens.
The young nestlings of the pigeon, when first disclosed, are callow, only covered with a yellow down: and for that reason stand in need of being cherished by the warmth of the hen, to protect them from the chillness of the ambient air, for a considerable time after they are hatched. Heath.
The word disclose has already occurred in a sense nearly allied to hatch, in this play:
" And I do doubt, the hatch and the disclose
5. Will be some danger.” Malone. What is the reason that you use me thus ?
I lov'd you ever:] So, in A Midsummer-Night's Dream, He. lena says to her rival.
do not be so bitter with me,
King. I pray thee, good Horatio, wait upon him.---
[Erit Hor: Strengthen your patience in our last night's speech;
[To LAER We 'll put the matter to the present push.. Good Gertrude, set some watch over your son.This grave shall have a living monument: An hour of quiet shortly' shall we see; Till then, in patience our proceeding be. [Exeunt.
A Hall in the Castle.
Enter HAMLET and HORATIO. Ham. So much for this, sir: now shall you see the
other; You do remember all the circumstance? Hor. Remember it, my
lord! Ham. Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting, That would not let me sleep;8 methought, I lay
- shortly -] The first quarto erroneously reads--thirty The second and third-thereby. The folio-shortly. Steevens.
Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting,
“ Within my soul there doth commence a fight,
“ Of this strange nature,” &c. The Hystorie of Hamblett, bl. 1. furnished our author with the scheme of sending the Prince to England, and with most of the circumstances described in this scene:
[After the death of Polonius] “Fengon (the King in the present play] could not content himselfe, but still his mind gave him that the foole (Hamlet] would play him some trick of legerdemaine. And in that conceit, seeking to bee rid of him, determined to find the meanes to doe it by the aid of a stranger, making the king of England minister of his massacrous resolution; to whom he purposed to send him, and by letters desire him to put him to death.
“ Now to beare him company, were assigned two of Fengon's faithful ministers, bearing letters ingraved in wood, that contained Hamlet's death, in such sort as he had advertised the king of England. But the subtil Danish prince, (being at sea) whilst his companions slept, having read the letters, and knowing his uncle's great treason, with the wicked and villainous mindes of the two courtiers that led him to the slaughter, raced out the letters that concerned his death, and instead thereof graved others, with commission to the king of England to hang